12/10/2015 11:20AM

Meadowlands: Rodeo Romeo looks formidable on Saturday

Derick Giwner
Trainer Chris Ryder has 28 horses including 12 babies in his barn for 2016.

Having finished fifth to likely Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit in his last two starts, Rodeo Romeo returns to the Meadowlands to face considerably weaker company. The 3-year-old by Rocknroll Hanover started his racing career at the Meadowlands early this year and figures to be favored in Saturday’s third race, an event for non-winners of 2 races or $20,000 lifetime.

“We had to make a decision whether to race him here (Meadowlands) for $10,000 or try him in the Hap Hansen at Dover,” said Chris Ryder, Rodeo Romeo’s trainer. “We thought that we had already paid him into that race and they were going for $300,000 so it was worth a shot. I’m very happy with the outcome.”

Entering the Hansen with just six career starts and returning from a long layoff, Rodeo Romeo raced impressively finishing fifth in both elimination heat and final despite the draw doing him no favors.

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“He drew the eight-hole in the final and that’s been the story all year for us,” said Ryder, citing the propensity of his other sophomore National Seelster to land the worst post positions when the biggest money was on the line.

Rodeo Romeo is back at the Meadowlands Saturday from post four with Brett Miller in the bike at a level where he appears to stand out. Ryder’s plans for the colt had to be structured by what’s available to race in.

While 2015 began with a series of winter late closing events at the Meadowlands custom made for Ryder’s young and inexperienced sophomore pacers, 2016 won’t be the same. The Meadowlands has scrapped its late closing program for the winter and that has a lot to do with Ryder’s decisions.

“If there were late closers I would definitely keep racing him,” said Ryder. “The way it is now is that we’ve gotten him back and a few more starts is all we have left. Then we’ll turn him out and bring him back in March or April.”

The saddest part is that Rodeo Romeo appears to look like the same type of horse that Rockeyed Optimist was a year ago. Both were 3-year-olds that lacked experience but exhibited glimpses of high class talent. Both are by Rocknroll Hanover and both are out of Artsplace-sired mares. To put a cherry on the top of the comparison, both were bred by Perretti Farms.

Ironically this last winter was perhaps the best in the array of talent that passed through the Meadowlands depth of late closers, with the aged trotter JL Cruze beginning a long and prosperous season in the winter at the Meadowlands. Then there was the presence of Wiggle It Jiggleit in February at the Meadowlands, racing in the Sonsam and Buddy Gilmour series against Ryder’s Rodeo Romeo and the more accomplished National Seelster.

As a horse without two lifetime wins in December of his 3-year-old career, Rodeo Romeo would be open to any late closing event pointed towards young horses with potential.

Instead Meadowlands fans may get just a few more chances to witness Rodeo Romeo in 2015. On Saturday he looks to repeat an effortless victory at the same level on November 14 at the East Rutherford mile track.

Ryder will race some others through the winter, but despite the presence of some quality stock in his stable it may prove difficult to race horses like Martini Hanover and Bushwacker on the same Meadowlands cards since both fit the upper class and those races aren’t filling as in the past.

The Presidential Series was usually the January stopping point for horses of that caliber but that too was scrapped leaving quality horses on the sidelines instead of the entry box.

Ryder is not lamenting the circumstances. He’s currently training 28 horses with a dozen babies to condition towards a 2016 campaign. National Seelster has been turned out since Lexington and should begin training in January. That sophomore and Rodeo Romeo proved competitive last winter during the infancy of the Wiggle It Jiggleit campaign. Ryder has no illusions that either sophomore will reach the level of Wiggle It Jiggleit in the future, but both show the potential to be upper class racehorses.

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